Corinth Holders had victory in the palm of its hand on Thursday night and almost let it escape.
But almost wasn’t good enough for host Cedar Ridge, which overcame a nine-point deficit and didn’t allow the visitors a point over the final 4:23 of regulation.
But the Pirates stood tall in overtime, winning 38-34 in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A girls’ basketball playoffs on Thursday night.
No. 27 overall seed Corinth Holders (14-11) advanced to Saturday’s third-round game at No. 2 Jacksonville (27-1).
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Both Corinth Holders and Cedar Ridge, which finished 14-14, had advanced to the second round with first-round road upsets on Tuesday night.
Big 8 Conference member Cedar Ridge had won 65-53 in the first round at No. 10 seed and Two Rivers 3A tournament champion Cleveland.
Corinth Holders had won 43-39 in the first round at No. 8 seed and Two Rivers 3A regular-season champion Triton. Triton had swept both regular-season meetings with the Pirates by a combined six points.
“We made the point that we wanted to play our tempo,” said first-year Corinth Holders varsity coach Shannon Lee. “(Cedar Ridge) had played in a lot of high-scoring ball games and we take a lot of pride in our defense. That’s really what helped us stay in the game and pull it out in overtime. We needed to make some adjustments because they have a great scorer. A couple of kids worked hard on her and we gave them a lot of support. Our chemistry is really good right now, and we hope we’re peaking at the right time.”
Melanie Tola, the Pirates’ 6-foot-3 senior center, led her team with 10 points and six rebounds while freshman Deonna Adams added nine points and Faith Weidner seven.
Carrie Davis led Cedar Ridge with 20 points while fellow senior Miracle Page, daughter of veteran head coach Felton Page, added five.
“We’ve been playing good defense, but we didn’t get the stops we needed to get tonight,” coach Page said. “We just had too many errant passes. Earlier in the season we might have given up and not gotten this game to overtime. They had scouted us well and did a good job slowing us down.”
Corinth Holders won the first three quarters. The Pirates were up 7-4 after the first period, then 14-9 at the half with the last four points coming from Tola.
It was 24-15 following back-to-back 3-pointers from Adams with 2:20 left in the third before the Red Wolves fought back.
Davis scored her team’s next seven points to cut the difference to four. It was 29-25 following a Weidner bucket with 4:23 left in the fourth before the Wolves came back to tie. Taylin Jean scored three of Cedar Ridge’s last four points, including a putback with 29 seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime.
“There’s a lot going through my head right now since it’s my last game here,” said Davis, who scored all of her team’s points in the extra period. “We kept fighting until the end. I had never been this far in the playoffs and wanted to keep it going.”
Tola hit a pair of free throws – snapping a string of four Pirates misses – with 3:12 left in overtime to give Corinth Holders the lead for good.
“We worked really well together tonight,” Tola said. “We passed the ball well, and we did a good job staying calm in overtime. A couple of weeks ago I never would have thought we’d be this far in the tournament.”